“It’s all about perfection, isn’t it?”
British actress Keira Knightley has been around in the entertainment industry for quite some time. Born on March 26, 1985, to theatre practitioners in the Teddington suburbs of London, Keira was introduced to ballet and theatre at a very young age which piqued her interest in acting. At age three, she received an agent who helped her bag small roles in various dramas on television. Knightley was diagnosed with dyslexia but got over it slowly with immense support from her parents. She was a regular at amateur productions and soon attended Esher College that she left one year later to pursue her passion for acting, about which she was serious and “single-minded”.
Knightley was a regular at various feature films, but she struggled hard to receive a role suited for her personality. However, her life changed for the better in 2002 when she bagged Gurinder Chadha’s sports comedy Bend It Like Beckham which won her accolades. She had undergone football training for three months and confessed how nobody was convinced of this film. Following this, she landed a starring role of Elizabeth Swann alongside Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Soon, she became a regular with intriguing characters to offer. Dedicated and determined to be the best version of herself, Knightley’s exponential growth in acting chops was visible on-screen with the varied range of emotions and the depth she brought to her characters. One of Knightley’s most well-known roles of all time would be that of Elizabeth Bennett in Joe Wright’s 2005 film Pride & Prejudice. An Austen fan throughout her childhood, she said that every girl was waiting for her Mr Darcy and that the beauty of her character lay in the fact that “every woman who reads the book seems to recognise herself, with all her faults and imperfections.”
Knightley has, since then, been a regular at various Independent and Broadway productions as well. Knightley will soon be seen in a comedy film Silent Night that shall show an extended family meeting for a Christmas dinner.
On her 36th birthday today, we take a look at the six best films streaming on Netflix starring Keira Knightley that are a testament to the brilliance and resplendence in her simplicity on-screen.
6 best Keira Knightley films on Netflix
6. Laggies (Lynn Shelton, 2014)
Keira Knightley plays the 28-year-old Megan whose life is stifling as she has no outlet. She is friends with the same people, dating the same guy and boredom encapsulates her. This stagnance in her life is, however, disrupted when she meets Annija, a rebellious teenager, and becomes a mother-slash-sister-slash-mentor for her. Together, they help each other explore unchartered domains. To make matters complicated, Megan ends up sleeping with Annika’s father who does not know that she is engaged.
The simple premise of this film is made somewhat special due to Shelton’s heartfelt and compassionate take on dying love and the drudgery and doldrum of modern relationships. The love shared by Megan and her boyfriend nearly become banal and Annika helps her spread out her wings and fly out of familiarity into the domain where unexpected surprises greet her. Knightley’s brilliant performance becomes the crux of the film.
“You can’t keep putting aside what you want for some imaginary future. You’ve gotta suck it up and go with your gut.”
5. Anna Karenina (Joe Wright, 2012)
Set in the 19th century St. Petersburg, the film is a historical film adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s eponymous 1877 novel. The film sees Anna Karenina, the resplendent wife of a Russian minister Karenin, getting herself embroiled in an epic scandal when she commences an illicit relationship with a handsome cavalry officer named Count Vronsky. Princess Kitty, too, pines for him; Anna faces a moral dilemma as her husband gives her an ultimatum where she has to choose between staying with her son and never meeting Vronsky again or getting banished and living a completely new and frivolous life with Vronsky.
Russian literature abounds in complex tales peppered with hypocrisy, jealousy, questions surrounding one’s faith and infidelity while constantly juxtaposing the city to the countryside or the urban to the rural. In this visually stylised work crafted by Joe Wright, Knightly brings the right amount of pain and anguish to her character as Anna Karenina whose epic dilemma between choosing her head over her heart is the crux of the film. The film won Knightley a BAFTA for her performance as well as the Best Adapted Screenplay BAFTA for Tom Stoppard.
“You love him and he loves you. But you can’t forgive. So, your lives must continue like this forever, with both of you wretched.”
4. Pride & Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005)
Adapted from Jane Austen’s celebrated novel of manners of the same name, the film explores the lives of the sisters and Jane and Elizabeth Bennet as they face the trials and tribulations of being of marriageable age. Life becomes somewhat complicated for Elizabeth when she meets the rich and arrogant aristocrat Mr Darcy with whom she shares an inexplicable and incomparable bond fanned by love, hatred and passion.
Wright had always envisioned Keira Knightley, who was reeing from her Pirates of the Caribbean fame, to be his Elizabeth Bennett in the film. However, he was even more convinced by the actress’ uncanny similarity to the character in terms of her tomboyish attitude, cheeky sense of humour as well as a cheerful and bright mind. Knightley, who had been an absolute fan of Jane Austen’s novels since the age of seven, was initially overwhelmed by the toke and did not want to imitate her idol Jennifer Ehle’s brilliant performance. She infused her own perception of the character while portraying Elizabeth Bennett, infusing wit and intelligence. The actress had to undergo rigorous training in terms of etiquette, history and contemporary dancing.
“No. No, I prefer to be unsociable and taciturn. Makes it all so much more enjoyable, don’t you think?”
3. Begin Again (John Carney, 2013)
Intimate and tender, Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo weave a thread of subtle magic which adds a delightful flavour to this simple love story. Fate and heartbreaks coupled with a shared passion for music bring these two lost souls together; they are simply at the ‘right place’ at the ‘right time’. Carny’s idea of love is indeed frustrating as he has a recurring habit of juxtaposing two extremely compatible and attractive individuals in an environment fuelled by platonic lust and poetic haplessness.
The film revolves around the duo who plays Gretta, an aspiring, recently heartbroken songwriter and Dan, a drunkard record-label executive, who stumble upon each other in an NYC bar one night; their star-crossed fate and “disarming emotional intimacy” brings them together yet creates an unbridgeable and platonic distance that cannot be traversed by either of them.
Begin Again is an enthralling and surreal poetic piece that can melt the hardest of hearts.
“Musicians for the most part are monosyllabic teenagers who really don’t have a whole lot to say.”
2. Colette (Wash Westmoreland, 2018)
Colette, a French young woman living in rural France, has an affair with Willy and moves to Paris as his wife. After certain hiccups in their relationship, while living in Paris, Colette drafts a novel based on her school stories which becomes a bestseller, garnering female readership. She is soon compelled to write more and finds a separate kind of freedom for herself.
Colette experiments with her sexuality. She is bold and wants to regain control over her own agency. A biographical drama, this film is highly underrated and remains a testament to Knightley’s stunning on-screen presence and incredible acting prowess. With its board and moving outlook, Colette sees Knightley at her best.
“What a wonderful life I’ve had. I only wish I’d realised it sooner.”
1. The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum, 2014)
Alan Turing is a British cryptographist who has been employed by the British intelligence agency in the wake of the Second World War. he is appointed to crack the Nazi codes and manages to crack them all, including Enigma which is the most difficult of them all. With his team, which includes Joan Clarke as well, Turing gets to building a machine that would finally lead to the formation of the modern computer. Upon their success, they are hailed as heroes; yet, in 1952 Turing is tried for being a homosexual and is chemically castrated which affects his well-being, leading him to take a drastic decision.
The film received high praise from the LGBTQ+ community for its realistic and subtle depiction of homosexuality. Illuminated by various facts as well as by Benedict Cumberbatch’s exceptional performance, the film is well-executed. The tragic element of the film adds poignance to a tale of triumph and strength. Knightley starred as the supportive Joan Clarke who was already suspicious of Turing’s homosexuality yet kept loving him and assisting him on his ambitious project.
“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”